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Chinese Grammar: 了(Le) Is Not Only for the Past

Welcome to our Chinese learning series – Ask Litao. In each video of this new series, we’re going to answer your questions about learning Chinese.

Many students thought the particle 了(le) can only be used for the past, which is not true! Please remember that 了(le) is not only for the past! In today’s lesson, I’m going to show you the four common patterns with 了(le) that not for the past.

1. 要/快…了 (yào/kuài…le)
We use the pattern “要…了(yào…le)” or “快…了(kuài…le)” to indicate something is going to happen soon, or there will be a new situation.
For example,
要下雨了。
Yào xiàyǔ le.
It’s going to rain soon.

夏天要来了。
Xiàtiān yào lái le.
The summer is coming.

我快到家了。
Wǒ kuài dào jiā le.
I’ll be home soon. / I’m almost home.

电影快开始了。
Diànyǐng kuài kāishǐ le.
The movie is about to begin.

In these four sentences, 了(le) is paired with 要(yào) or 快(kuài) for the future, not the past! If you want to learn more about this pattern, you can check lesson 29 of our elementary Chinese course.

2. Verb1 + 了(le)…Verb2…
In this pattern, there are two verbs, and 了(le) follows the first verb, the whole pattern is normally used for the future to say that a person will do the second thing after finish the first one.
For example,
我下班了给你打电话。
Wǒ xiàbānle gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà.
After I get off work, I will call you.
When you say this sentence, you are still at work.

你吃了午饭来我的办公室。
Nǐ chīle wǔfàn lái wǒ de bàngōngshì.
After you have your lunch, come to my office.
When you say this to your colleague, he/she is probably in the middle of lunch, or even didn’t start to eat.

3. 太…了 (tài…le)
This pattern is often used to express a person’s response to a situation that is excessively worse or better than expected.
For example,
今天的作业太难了!
Jīntiān de zuòyè tài nán le!
Today’s homework is too difficult!
It’s more difficult than expected.

饺子太好吃了!
Jiǎozi tài hǎochī le!
The dumplings are so delicious!
It’s better than expected.
You can find more examples of this pattern in lesson 13 and lesson 33 of our elementary Chinese course.

4. 别…了 (bié…le)
We use this pattern to tell somebody to stop doing something. For example, you’re studying at library now, but some people next to you have been talking all the time, you can’t stand it any more, so you can tell them:
别说话了,我在学习呢!
Bié shuōhuà le, wǒ zài xuéxí ne!
Stop talking! I’m studying!

Another situation, you’re having dinner with your friend, but he/she keeps playing the mobile phone, then you can say:
别玩儿手机了,吃饭吧!
Bié wánr shǒujī le, chīfàn ba!
Stop playing the mobile phone, eat your meal!

Here is a question for you:
What’s the meaning of the sentence 他们要去北京了(Tāmen yào qù Běijīng le)? “They’re going to Beijing soon” or “They went to Beijing”?
Please leave your answer in comments.

Chinese Grammar: 了(Le) Is Not Only for the Past

Welcome to our Chinese learning series – Ask Litao. In each video of this new series, we’re going to answer your questions about learning Chinese.

Many students thought the particle 了(le) can only be used for the past, which is not true! Please remember that 了(le) is not only for the past! In today’s lesson, I’m going to show you the four common patterns with 了(le) that not for the past.

1. 要/快…了 (yào/kuài…le)
We use the pattern “要…了(yào…le)” or “快…了(kuài…le)” to indicate something is going to happen soon, or there will be a new situation.
For example,
要下雨了。
Yào xiàyǔ le.
It’s going to rain soon.

夏天要来了。
Xiàtiān yào lái le.
The summer is coming.

我快到家了。
Wǒ kuài dào jiā le.
I’ll be home soon. / I’m almost home.

电影快开始了。
Diànyǐng kuài kāishǐ le.
The movie is about to begin.

In these four sentences, 了(le) is paired with 要(yào) or 快(kuài) for the future, not the past! If you want to learn more about this pattern, you can check lesson 29 of our elementary Chinese course.

2. Verb1 + 了(le)…Verb2…
In this pattern, there are two verbs, and 了(le) follows the first verb, the whole pattern is normally used for the future to say that a person will do the second thing after finish the first one.
For example,
我下班了给你打电话。
Wǒ xiàbānle gěi nǐ dǎ diànhuà.
After I get off work, I will call you.
When you say this sentence, you are still at work.

你吃了午饭来我的办公室。
Nǐ chīle wǔfàn lái wǒ de bàngōngshì.
After you have your lunch, come to my office.
When you say this to your colleague, he/she is probably in the middle of lunch, or even didn’t start to eat.

3. 太…了 (tài…le)
This pattern is often used to express a person’s response to a situation that is excessively worse or better than expected.
For example,
今天的作业太难了!
Jīntiān de zuòyè tài nán le!
Today’s homework is too difficult!
It’s more difficult than expected.

饺子太好吃了!
Jiǎozi tài hǎochī le!
The dumplings are so delicious!
It’s better than expected.
You can find more examples of this pattern in lesson 13 and lesson 33 of our elementary Chinese course.

4. 别…了 (bié…le)
We use this pattern to tell somebody to stop doing something. For example, you’re studying at library now, but some people next to you have been talking all the time, you can’t stand it any more, so you can tell them:
别说话了,我在学习呢!
Bié shuōhuà le, wǒ zài xuéxí ne!
Stop talking! I’m studying!

Another situation, you’re having dinner with your friend, but he/she keeps playing the mobile phone, then you can say:
别玩儿手机了,吃饭吧!
Bié wánr shǒujī le, chīfàn ba!
Stop playing the mobile phone, eat your meal!

Here is a question for you:
What’s the meaning of the sentence 他们要去北京了(Tāmen yào qù Běijīng le)? “They’re going to Beijing soon” or “They went to Beijing”?
Please leave your answer in comments.

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